|Video Games: "One More Patent
When Willy Higinbotham of the Brookhaven National Laboratory invented the first video game, he had no idea that it would be such a hit. In fact, he did not imagine that it would be such a craze among children and adults alike in years to come. As a result, Higinbotham, already a holder of twenty patents, did not patent his video game system. Although, Higinbotham is recognized as the inventor of video games, he has yet to receive a dime from video game sales. (Glossary)Something Exciting for a Nuclear Exhibit
During the late Fifties, the Brookhaven Laboratory, which was devoted to peaceful uses for nuclear energy, decided to have an annual open house so that the public could see what its nuclear facilities were like. Every year, parents and children filled the building to see the machinery, pictures of reactors, and other complicated devices. The setup, however, was rather boring to the visitors and researchers alike. One day in 1958, Higinbotham decided to invent something that would bring life to the dull exhibit (Flatow 215).
He decided that we would try to base is inventions around the newly designed Television. He did no need an entire television, however, just the portion that displayed the imaged: the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). Searching around his lab for equipment to use, he found an old oscilloscope that he thought might be useful. After tinkering around with the oscilloscope and a CRT, he was able to produce a dot that bounced around the screen randomly. He then wondered, “would it be possible to control the movement of the ‘ball’?” After more searching in the laboratory, he gathered up a slew of resistors, capacitors, potentiometers, and any other electrical component that he could find. Flatow describes the design and setup of this first game in his book They All Laughed:
Two hours of scratching a design on paper and two weeks of wiring debugging, and the game was complete. The tennis game was displayed on a tiny, five-inch screen. It involved two players, each having a box with a button and a knob. If you pushed the button, you hit the ball to the opponent’s court. The knob controlled how high the ball was hit (217).
Next to all of the other complicated gadgetry, Higinbotham’s game seemed pretty meager. But that did not stop people from noticing it. Huge lines formed; everybody in the exhibit wanted to play the game. For the open house in 1959, Higinbotham made some key improvements to the game. He increased the screen size to 15 inches, and added a feature that let the user select which planet to play on such as the very low gravity of the moon, or the high gravity of Jupiter.Video Games Surprisingly Flourish
Around 1971, Atari introduced a video arcade system similar to Higinbotham’s called Pong. In Pong, the user hit a ball over a net; the whole setup was strikingly similar to Higinbotham’s game. A few years later, Magnavox introduced the first home video system, called the Odyssey. All in all, the video game market, which have drastically improved over the last two decades, have been a surprisingly successful one. Video games systems nowadays boast 64 bit processors that deliver lifelike, 3D images. Moreover, with the popularity of computers, people do not have to have separate systems for word processing and video game play. As computer technology evolves, games will become more sophisicated and more packed with sound effects. Few games, however, show any resemblance to that historic piece of laboratory components.References
Flatow, Ira. They All Laughed. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.